Makeshift Releases Video Series on Power Hackers

The talented team behind Makeshift Magazine, “the field guide to hidden creativity,” recently launched the YouTube channel ‘Makeshift On Air’ to accompany their online and quarterly print publications. We were especially drawn to the Power Hackers video series profiling the ways unlikely makers and designers are developing creative, locally-based energy solutions. Created in collaboration with Autodesk Sustainable Design Program Manager Dawn Danby, the first video follows high schooler Leroy Mwasaru and fellow students in their iterative quest to develop a sustainable source of energy. Makeshift Video Producer Matt Peters shared this on developing the video “Poo Power in Kenya”:

“I first heard of Leroy through Elie Suzuki at Global Minimum. The story captivated me because it was not just about innovation but also about the next generation of Kenyan youth coming up with solutions to problems around them. When I saw Leroy speak at a conference, I realized this would be a great story about how hyper-local ingenuity can be an inspiration for larger climate change infrastructure.”

Catch all of the Makeshift On Air shorts by subscribing to their YouTube channel here.

Chicago Design Competition on Youth Violence

chicago design The Chicago Design Competition is an opportunity for practitioners, policymakers and researchers to propose innovative ideas to improve life outcomes of youth at elevated risk for violence involvement. Since these challenges are not unique to Chicago, effective solutions have the potential to be transformative in other urban settings as well.

This initiative demonstrates a new paradigm in research and practice that seeks to bring rigor and responsiveness to pressing urban challenges and to generate data and evidence about what works for whom and why – data and evidence to help the public sector and its partners in philanthropy and the nonprofit sector, do the most social good possible per dollar spent.

One or more winning interventions will be selected to receive up to $1 million each in funding support. The deadline is March 2nd, 2015. Find out more information and apply here.

Impact Hub Kings Cross Space for Change Design Competition

Impact Hub Competition

Part innovation lab, part business incubator, and part community center, Impact Hubs are spaces where “change goes to work.” With co-working spaces in more than 60 locations Impact Hubs are proving to be an invaluable resource to catalyze impact in a wide range of fields. Impact Hub Kings Cross in London is currently looking for a designer to cultivate collaboration and community through a renovation of their cafe.

We are calling for candidates to submit entries for our open ideas competition to redesign our ground level café space into a community kitchen where our members can prepare food and have lunch together. As we are primarily a co-working space our members require excellent conditions for productivity with a variety of settings that reflect the diversity of work they carry out.

The overall winner will receive £5000 to implement their designs a ‘HUB 50′ membership year pass and £500. The competition deadline is 27th March 2015. The full competition brief is available to view and download by clicking here. All contestants are required to register by filling out a simple form accessed here.

3D Printing Medical Tools in Haiti & Beyond

Field Ready

Although it has been five years since the severe earthquake that hit Haiti, the land and the people are still recovering. Most inhabitants are still lacking basic human rights such as shelter, clean water and access to health care. Field Ready, a humanitarian aid organization using technology and education as a vehicle to transform logistical supply chains, has been working to solve both short term and long-term medical care by bringing 3D printing to the healthcare space for developing countries. Eric James, a co-founder of Field Ready, explains:

3D printing offers a lot of flexibility and this will only improve in the future. And the future is what we’re working on now.

Field Ready is on the ground working with communities to identify needs and devise 3D printed design solutions to meet localized demand. One example is the umbilical cord clamp, which addresses the high rate of infections or postnatal umbilical sepsis after childbirth. Read more about how Field Ready is sharing knowledge and solving pressing issues in Haiti and beyond here.

Design for Equity: Introduction to an Eight-Part Feature Series


Over the past few weeks, news of the closure of Architecture For Humanity has led to many critiques and questions, not only about the future of AfH, but the future of the entire field of public interest design. Inspired in the 1960s by the civil rights movement and maintained by humble practitioners across the globe, this dynamic constellation of practices is not defined by the rise or fall of a single organization or figurehead. Instead of calling the entire field into question, what the response to the closure of AfH serves to highlight are major weaknesses the field is now mature enough to address head on.

Although there are many different practice types and priorities operating under the umbrella of ‘public interest design’ (or related terms), much of that work is not focused on ameliorating injustice. In order to ensure that the field is concerned with action towards beneficial impact we need a shift in priorities; we need to focus on designing for equity. More

Farming Kindergarten: Playground to the Sky


Vietnam is currently transitioning from a historically agricultural producing nation to a manufacturing based economy. This translates to a shifting landscape of highly urbanized and polluted environments, with loss of green space and places of play. Farming Kindergarten is an initiative by Vo Trong Hghia Architects to counter these issues. Vo Trong Hghia designed a school for the children of low-income factory workers that also functions as a green roof, playground, and site for producing food and agriculture. Located adjacent to a large shoe factory, this building is designed to operate on passive energy and was built with sustainable and low cost materials. From the architects:

The building is made of a continuous narrow strip with two side operable windows which maximize the cross ventilation and natural lighting. Additionally, architectural and mechanical energy-saving methods are comprehensively applied including but not limited to: green roof as insulation, green facade as shading and solar water heating.

Voted as one of ArchDaily Building of the Year Winners, Farming Kindergarten utilizes the current environmental issues of Vietnam to create a beautiful and meaningful structure. Read more on ArchDaily here.

Image courtesy of Hiroyuki Oki

T Lab Recruiting for 3rd Cohort

Bay Area-based nonprofit Tipping Point Community is now recruiting nine problem-solvers to join the 2015-2016 cohort for their 3rd annual T Lab Program. The six-month program–which includes a stipend of $35,000–entails designing and testing solutions for poverty-related issues. Whether you have experience as a designer, engineer, non-profit leader, social scientist, business person or simply an effective problem-solver, they want to hear from you if you have an interest in tackling poverty and “a conviction to making the impossible possible.” Applications are due April 10, 2015, for the program’s start date on October 5, 2015.

Tipping Point fights poverty in the Bay Area. Since 2005, we have raised more than $60 million to educate, employ, house and support more than 250,000 people living in poverty. T Lab at Tipping Point is an initiative that will bring together a diverse group of nine Problem-Solvers to tackle challenges in Child Care, Early Childhood Education and Prisoner Reentry.

Click here to read more and apply, to be a T Lab Problem Solver for  2015-2016, online at

Re-blocking in Cape Town’s Informal Settlements


Informal settlements present a unique set of issues to their inhabitants. Since each informal settlement is differentiated by size, shape, location, and sociocultural beliefs, diverse approaches are necessary to efficiently elevate standards of living within these communities. One approach that has been utilized in several settlements is re-blocking.

“Blocking-out” and “re-blocking” are interchangeable terms the ISN and support NGOs Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC) and iKhayalami use to refer to the reconfiguration and repositioning of shacks in very dense informal settlements in accordance to a community-drafted spatial framework. The aim is to better utilize the spaces in informal settlements to allow for better service provision. Moreover, re-blocking is done in “clusters” identified by the community, and after implementation, “courtyards” are created to ensure a safer environment for woman and children via neighborhood watches (all shacks face the courtyard), productive places (such as washing lines, food gardens), and generally provides space for local government to install better services.

The key to this work is central participation of the community in all steps of the process. In Cape Town, re-blocking of the Kuku Town informal settlement created major impact on the lives of the urban poor and marginalized inhabitants. So much so, that the City of Cape Town has adopted re-blocking for their informal settlement upgrade strategy budget for the next five years. Read more about this project here.

Image courtesy of Future Cape Town

Design Matters in Social Innovation: Interview with Mariana Amatullo

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Mariana Amatullo is a writer, educator, speaker, and student of design and social impact. She is the Vice President of the award-winning Designmatters Department at Art Center College of Art and Design which she co-founded in 2001. Mariana is a Design and Innovation and Non Profit Management Fellow at the Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve University, where her doctoral research focuses on the evolving role of design as a locus for social innovation.

Allan Chochinov: Mariana, I’d like to start with two questions that I teach my students to ask: What gets you out of bed in the morning and what keeps you up at night? What are you most excited about right now, and what are you most worried about?

Mariana Amatullo: I would say that what gets me up in the morning and motivates me deeply is living in a moment in time where there is an important call for, and recognition about, the unique value design and designers may bring to shaping and promoting processes of societal change. In this sense, I consider myself fortunate to be participating in a field or inquiry and practice—which gets referred to in a variety of ways as design for social innovation, social design, design for social impact—that is incredibly dynamic, complex and rewarding. What keeps me up at night is the other side of the coin, if you will, of the same motivation: ensuring that we do not fall short on delivering on the promise of design in this space. In other words, making certain that this emergent field not become “the design fad that failed” because we somehow did not honor that promise with the systematic rigor and boundless imagination required for success. More

2015 Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence Finalists Announced


In this biennial accolade, the Bruner Foundation Inc. honors transformative urban placemaking in America. Five finalists were recently chosen based on their impact on cities economically, socially, and physically.

“The Rudy Bruner Award offers the opportunity to showcase innovative placemaking responses to the needs of American cities and communities,” says Simeon Bruner, founder of the award. “We want to advance discourse about making cities better, and seek outstanding examples to share with those who care about improving our urban environments. There are a surprising number of inventive projects out there, if you just look for them.”

The Bruner Foundation will be conducting site visits to each of the finalist’s projects next month to determine the selection of the medal winners in June. Medalists receive cash awards ranging from $50,000 to $10,000 each. Click here to read the more about the finalist’s projects.